Toyota 4Runner

Do modifications increase the value of a Toyota 4Runner?

Let’s be clear from the start: I’m a die-hard fan of the Toyota 4Runner. I have owned a 4th gen and a 5th gen and will inevitably own another in the future. From daily driver to weekend wheeling companion, the 4Runner works shockingly well in every conceivable usage. For many events in my life, including some of the most important, the 4Runner has been there with me. Everybody who knows me and my automotive proclivities knows I love the 4Runner dearly.

And I’m not alone: 4Runner sales have consistently increased year-over-year since 2011. Last year’s sales were double that of 2014. Low gas prices have helped, but the world has taken notice of how versatile and well-rounded the 4Runner is. Fantastic reliability and durability help. So does off-road prowess: over the last few years, the 4Runner’s popularity in the off-road community has skyrocketed. Its presence on the trails has climbed correspondingly as well. And, of course, the aftermarket manufacturers have taken notice, now offering everything imaginable for the trucks. With the right budget, it’s laughably easy to outfit a 4Runner with every off-road modification and accessory imaginable.

Toyota 4Runner

Which brings us to the 4Runner we have here. Once used as a marketing vehicle for VTX Wheels, it boasts a massive array of aftermarket parts, accessories, and equipment. Quality, high-end stuff adorns every inch of the truck. It’s a properly good build that would fill the dreams of many wheelers. Set up like this, you could see the world while living out of a 4Runner. And the amount of stuff that has gone into it in order to allow its driver to do so is reflected in the seller’s asking price.

Brand new the 2016 4Runner Trail Premium trim with KDSS (Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System) carried an MSRP just over $40k. A healthy number for a great all-around truck. But then the owner went crazy with the modifications. Just focusing on the big-ticket items, here’s the list: ICON Stage 7 suspension (~$5,500+), VTX Rogue SL Wheels (~$1000), Toyo Open Country Mud Terrains (~$350/ea.), a rear end re-gear (~$2,000+), ARB air locker ($1000+ install), CBI front bumper (~$1,300), CBI rear bumper (~$2,000), CBI rock sliders (~$1,000), CBI skid plates (~$1,000), Front Runner roof rack (~$1,000), Warn M8000 winch w/synthetic line (~$900), ARB dual compressor (~$500), Off-Grid Engineering Dual Battery kit (~$400), dual Odyssey 34R batteries (~$550), ARB snorkel (~$500), Goose Gear trunk drawers (~$1,300), Sprint Booster ($289), $2k+ in Baja Designs lights, and so on.

The final tally comes in at well over $20,000 in modifications. Not counting parts I didn’t include. And not counting labor. So with a 4Runner that was ~$40k new, the ~$20k in modifications bring the asking price up to a whopping $59,999. That’s a huge number. I don’t doubt it’s an extremely well-built vehicle, but the price they want to get for it is a bit insane.

Toyota 4Runner

Now, obviously some sponsorships were involved and/or some deals were cut as it is stated that this 4Runner was used a marketing vehicle. Probably a show truck, maybe even for SEMA. But it brings up a good topic: do modifications add value to a vehicle, and why do people think that they do? Likewise, why do Toyota 4x4s hold their value so well, and does concept of modifications adding value apply to these trucks?

Let’s address the first, first: generally, modifications do not increase the value of a vehicle unless they make it truly exceptional. Take, for example, adding a manual transmission to an early paddle-shift, automatic trans Aston Martin. Or a manual to an F430 Scuderia. But off-road modifications? Rarely do they add value or raise the selling price. Owners are usually best off keeping their factory parts and returning the vehicle to stock prior to sale, then selling the aftermarket parts separately (likely for a fraction of what was paid for them new).

Toyota 4Runner

There are exceptions, of course, like when a reputable shop does high-end modifications to a highly desirable vehicle. Things like an American Expeditions Vehicles modified Wrangler could fall into this category. Likewise, so could high-end parts. But rarely, and almost never, do the sum of the parts add as much value as their original retail worth. And note that labor never factors in. When it comes to selling a modified vehicle, one plus one does not necessarily equal two. A $30k vehicle with $10k of modifications rarely makes for a $40k vehicle.

And then there’s the topic of Toyota 4x4s and their lack of depreciation. Well, that’s extreme; of course they depreciate. But spend some time on the normal slew of car sales sites–, AutoTrader, CarGurus– and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. For whatever reason, Toyota 4x4s suffer relatively minor depreciation compared to other vehicles. Four-wheel-drive ‘Yotas like the 4Runner and Tacoma seem to operate in a weird realm of existence. Older vehicles still sell for high numbers, and year-old trucks still retain value exceptionally well. Some even go for as much used as they do new. 

It’s not that the 4WD Toyotas don’t depreciate, but that they hold a very high resale value. Likely due to their reliability, durability, and reputation, values drop fairly little once the “initial depreciation hit” is incurred. Again, they’re not impervious to depreciation, but a few thousand miles on a well cared-for truck still leaves it very close to its original selling price, if not equal to it or higher. It must be said though that this doesn’t apply for vehicles more than two model years old. After that, all bets are off.

Toyota 4Runner

Now, as for this 4Runner… I just don’t know. I’m not trying to rag on the seller, but $60k seems like a lot for what this truck is, modifications be damned. Yes, it’s likely a very well-built vehicle. Yes, reputable shops built it. And yes, it has the right equipment. But– just focusing on the platform here– even for the Toyota 4×4 world it’s hard to see a three-year-old 4Runner with 32,000 miles appear to be worth what it was new. According to the seller, the $40k truck plus the ~$20k+ of modifications makes it a $60k vehicle. But, as noted, the platform has 32,000 miles. It’s a three-model-year-old vehicle. And, crucially, the price of a used vehicle plus the price of modifications does not equal the price of the vehicle on the used market.

When it comes down to it, the value of a vehicle isn’t what the seller is asking but rather what a buyer is willing to pay for it. Sure, it has the “Turn key overland rig” buzzword title, but it’s also listed at a price that stands quite a bit more than the MSRP of any 4Runner, ever. But hey, if they can get $60k for it, I’ll proudly say I was wrong.

That said, and just for perspective, $60k buys a brand-new 4Runner TRD Off Road Premium and change leftover to outfit it exactly the way you want. Or, build it almost exactly like this. $60k simply isn’t the territory that a modified 4Runner should be selling in, especially considering excellent Land Cruisers– much more vehicle than the 4Runner is, at least when not factoring in weight– can be bought and then modified for well under $60k. And whether it’s any other 4Runner, a LC, or any other Toyota 4×4…they likely won’t have the tacky, SEMA-esque vinyl wrap still plastered all over the body of the 4Runner that is cause for this whole discussion. Frankly, I don’t think anybody is going to pay close to $60k for this 4Runner. Maybe $45k, but not $60k.

Then again, apparently the seller knows better than I do: “Keep in mind, I wasn’t born yesterday so I have a good idea what this 4Runner is worth.”

All images courtesy of the original Craigslist listing.

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13 responses to “Do modifications increase the value of a Toyota 4Runner?”

  1. Christopher Tracy Avatar
    Christopher Tracy

    I found a used Suburban recently that had a lift kit and some armor added to the front. I liked the look, but questioned any short cuts that might have been taken. I don’t trust other people’s work (unless I’ve witnessed their skill) and modifying a vehicle is a personal experience. I don’t think that I could ever buy someone else’s mods, let alone spend $60k on them. No, thank you.

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      I wholeheartedly agree. Unless we’re talking some sort of restomod or well-documented fix, I’d wager that modifications on a general assumption substract value from a vehicle.

    2. Ross Ballot Avatar
      Ross Ballot

      I’ve done it, specifically with the Stormtrooper 4Runner. Given, the purchase price was a fraction of $60k, but same difference. It was a double edged-sword; I got a ton of equipment and parts at a discount, but had a platform that needed work as a result.

      Would I do it again? Depends on the end-goal. For a daily…no. But for a project? Perhaps.

      That said, $60k for this is absurd.

  2. Zentropy Avatar

    A vehicle is not worth the sum of its parts. Chances are, even someone who is genuinely interested in this particular 4Runner might have elected to omit or change certain modifications, had they been starting from scratch. Say for example, this person would have passed on the drawers, snorkel, and vinyl wrap. That’s probably $6,500 in mods that essentially means $0 to the prospective buyer. When you customize something this extensively, it’s unlikely you’re going to find someone that values every thing you did to it.

    I would lowball the hell out of this guy simply for stating “I wasn’t born yesterday so I have a good idea what this 4Runner is worth.” Yeah, if you did, you wouldn’t be asking $60k for it. A vehicle is only worth what someone is willing to pay. What you have in it doesn’t mean jack.

    1. Troggy Avatar

      Yup, I would imagine that finding a person with precisely the same vision, who wants to drive it right off the lot as-is would be a fairly narrow market.
      This is an example of “all the gear, no idea”. As a aftermarket parts showcase, nobody built it with any intention of it actually being used. Or maintained, for that matter.
      Someone with 60k to burn would probably prefer to fit a vehicle to their own particular vision.

  3. neight428 Avatar

    The more custom you get, the smaller your customer base will be. Like Zen says, any particular mod may be of no value to any one buyer. So while you may find the secret sauce for one guy, he may be completely across the country and two years out from being able to afford it. There are people that buy low mile used F150’s by the dozen, put a cookie cutter lift and wheel/tire package on them and sell them for $45-50k, but F150’s are nearly a commodity with the volume out there on the market, and brodozer tastes are consistent enough to support a large niche of country music, tobacco, and energy drink industries, so there’s more there to work with.

    Part of the fun is the build, researching the heck out of what you want and then piecing it together, ideally in your own garage. Buying a vehicle modified so extensively is like buying someone else’s fun.

    I don’t look for a dollar for dollar payback on my mods at all. This is a hobby and an expensive one. One way to feel better about it is to buy a project that has needs on the cheap and then restomod your way around it getting back to “clean stock” value on the other side at a cost premium to yourself. That premium pays for your fun and if you do it right, you might find a like minded enthusiast down the road, but never count on it.

    A brand new vehicle doesn’t fit this obviously, but if you’re pouring $20k worth of accessories into a depreciating asset, you shouldn’t be too worried about the financial side of things in the first place.

    1. 0A5599 Avatar

      The depreciating asset aspect brings up a couple other points: finance and insurance. A bank is only going to loan around what the blue book says it’s worth, and if it gets stolen or totaled, unless you previously got the mods onto a rider (probably increasing the premium), they are only going to pay based on blue book.

      1. Zentropy Avatar

        Good point. Another argument that shrinks the audience of this vehicle even further.

    2. Troggy Avatar

      This too. I think that the point of modification (probably more accessorising in this case) is to drive the thing, figure out what’s wrong with it, or what can be improved upon, and address those issues. Keep it as simple, keep it tasteful, and if you’re concerned about resale, make it so that the potential buyer either 1. appreciates and values what you’ve done, or 2. doesn’t care and won’t let it affect his/her opinion and value of the car.
      Just chucking a bunch of aftermarket parts at a car doesn’t automatically raise its value.

  4. Smaglik Avatar

    Whenever I see ads like this, I always think that the spouse must really want it gone.

    “When are you going to get rid of that thing?”

    “I don’t know, honey. I put it up for sale, but the market just isn’t great right now.”

  5. salguod Avatar

    Used stock 4 Runners with that mileage seem to go for the low $30K range. The mods add something, so maybe it’s a $40K truck.

    Regarding resale value, take a look at used FJ Cruisers. Under 50K miles and they are asking $30K. Well into 6 figure mileage and they are still $13K plus.

  6. SlowJoeCrow Avatar

    It’s a fairly common behavior, pricing to include the cost of restoration and accessories, The problem is a $10k vehicle with a $20k resto is rarely worth $30k, much less the $40k it sells for on TV shows. The reality is more often $20k. I’d consider buying a modified or restored vehicle but given the choice I want a stock, original vehicle so I have full knowledge and full control of the work.

  7. Ray Barnard Avatar
    Ray Barnard

    I have the 2019 4Runner SR5 Premium is there a front seat after market seats to improve comfort. We have noticed the sqab on the seats is short causing pins and needles and cramp at times. Thanks

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